It’s been a controversial season of Game of Thrones to say the least. It’s also been divisive with some fans claiming Game of Thrones has never been better and others vowing to never watch the series again. Personally I think Game of Thrones season 5 had some stumbles but overall was a high quality experience, with the exception of one major plot line. More than Stannis, Sansa or Snow the biggest problem of Game of Thrones in season five was Dorne.
Hopes really couldn’t have been higher when it was announced that Game of Thrones would head to Dorne. There’s rarely been a character whose popularity has grown so quickly as Oberyn Martell’s did in season four. The promise of seeing his homeland and family was enough to be excited. When you added on the news that one of the most popular characters, Jaime Lannister would be heading to this far off land, anticipation was at fervor. Yet as season five progressed Game of Thrones systematically took everything promising about the Dorne plotline and utterly ruined it.
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It was a Combination of Witless Antagonists…
For awhile there was still hope. Dorne was absolutely gorgeous looking and the Sand Snakes and Ellaria seemed like a breath of fresh air. In a world that is so toxically patriarchal as Game of Thrones these four women should have been something exhilarating. They’re women who won’t just willingly admit defeat and they relentlessly pursue their goals regardless what their (male) leader tells them. The problem was their reasoning was so faulty and goals so narrow minded that they didn’t come off as anything other than petty and incompetent fools.
It’s pretty easy to accept Oberyn’s daughters as rash and foolhardy people. They’re young and probably somewhat naive. They had just lost their father and it’s easy to see how they would blame this adversarial family as universally responsible for the tragedy. In all the ways that the Dorne story failed they firmly established one thing. There is deep resentment and hatred between the Martells and the Lannisters. So the Sand Snakes having irrational desire to see someone pay for their father’s death even though they weren’t directly responsible but merely related to people who were is completely plausible. The same cannot be said for their de facto leader Ellaria Sand.
Oberyn was excitable but he wasn’t an idiot. His decision to enter into Tyrion’s trial by combat to face his sister’s murderer was a reckless but calculated strike. Oberyn gambled with his life and he lost, but it was his choice. No one forced Oberyn into that combat and no one knows that better than Ellaria. Oberyn was killed but it was in a situation of his own making. You’d except that if anyone would’ve understood that it was the woman by his side throughout the whole ordeal. Grief makes you do crazy things but I don’t think grief has ever made anyone try to repeatedly kill an innocent teenage girl for “justice”.
…And Spineless Planning
If it was just flawed motivations at work that’d one thing but the execution was terribly mishandled. Game of Thrones is often accused of doing “nothing” for several episodes. In most cases that’s not necessarily true, it’s more like slow world and plot building that will pay off later in the season. In Dorne though, truly nothing happened for nine episodes. There was no sense of consequence, no forward plot movement, nothing happened.
The whole story line consisted of two rival factions (led by Jaime and Ellaria, respectively) awkwardly shuffling around each other with Doran Martell acting like a frustrated father figure. This wasn’t the deft political maneuvering and mind games that Game of Thrones is known for, this was a schoolyard squabble with spears and poison. It would have been fine if the story was treated this way but it wasn’t. The Dorne story had the same sense of gravity as everything else in Westeros, but none of the emotional stakes. It was a complete waste of acting talent by everyone involved as they had to act out this toothless and flat revenge plot.
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The “Dramatic” Conclusion Meant Nothing
Upon the end of that tenth episode something actually happened in Dorne. The Sand Snakes and Ellaria managed to pull off their plan and seemingly killled Myrcella. This one singular act of bloody vengeance doesn’t make up for the ineffectualness that preceded it. It’s not as if after stumbling over their own whips for an entire season Ellaria and the Sand Snakes came up with some brilliant plan.
They didn’t conduct a way to poison Myrcella without it being traced back to them. It was blindly obvious why Myrcella’s nose was bleeding before Ellaria took the poison’s antidote for herself. If Jaime doesn’t figure out how is daughter is dying he’s missing a brain as well as a hand. There’s would be no narrative difference between Obara stabbing Myrcella in the gut back in “Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken”.
They didn’t even needed to set up the poison for this murder to work. Oberyn was already famous for his use of the deadly substance it wasn’t necessarily to establish this trait in his daughters and it certainly didn’t need to take all season to happen. Instead Game of Thrones dragged the plot out unnecessarily so they could end the season on this supposedly shocking moment.
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Help Us, Doran. You’re Our Only Hope.
As a gigantic mess as the Dorne story became its not all bad. There’s some hope that things might not reach a happy ending but a dramatically satisfying one. Game of Thrones did manage to successfully introduce the character of Doran Martell. While he looks foolish for trusting Ellaria in light of her actions in “Mother’s Mercy”, that’s nothing that can’t be easily corrected next season. Doran wasn’t used enough but he struck a commanding presence while he was onscreen. He was immediately established as someone who was smart, capable and tough. He’s a leader you don’t want to cross even if he was wheelchair bound.
The road to Myrcella’s death was unnecessary convoluted and riddled with logic problems, but there should be something compelling that happens in the fallout. Whether it’s Jaime turning the boat around and unleashing a unholy vengeance of his own or Cersei setting loose her new zombified Mountain, the Lannister will pay their debts. It should be exciting to see how Doran will make it out alive of the situation or even if he can.
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But what did you think of Dorne and Game of Thrones season five? Were you charmed enough by Indira Varma’s performance to ignore Ellaria’s idiocy? Were the Sand Snakes adequate successors to Oberyn’s throne? Or are you among the internet crowd who was promised to never watch the show again?
(Images courtesy of HBO)